Kim Crowley and Nick Rotter-Weller are the inaugural recipients of the Clement and Linda McGillicuddy Humanities Center (MHC) Undergraduate Fellowship.
The fellowship provides financial support so students can concentrate on coursework, develop research projects, work collaboratively with peers, participate in interdisciplinary humanities programs and gain professional skills.
Crowley and Rotter-Weller are English majors. Crowley, of Newport, Oregon, focuses in professional writing and minors in marketing. Rotter-Weller, of Palos Verdes Estates, California, has a concentration in analytical writing and a minor in political science.
Crowley melds her personal experiences with her love of language, research and service in her Honors thesis and fellowship project, “The Personal Is Poetic: A Case for Poetry Therapy.”
“Essentially, it’s a synthesis of a research-oriented and a creative thesis, creating a holistic view of poetry therapy,” says Crowley, who, since middle school, has written poetry to process emotions and manage difficult situations.
“Since I never knew why I was drawn to poetry over other artistic expressions, I wanted to research its clinical uses and compare them to my own, to use it to better understand my experience and vice versa,” she says. “It’s valuable because it feels very personal, but at the same time, it could be beneficial to other people.”
UMaine’s inclusive, service-oriented culture spurred Crowley to discover her path. “There are so many communities here and such diverse populations among the students. Everyone has a place to explore, to develop their own passions — that’s how I found mine,” she says. “It’s a very open and accepting environment.”
“The whole UMaine experience has been so different from anything I’ve experienced. Everything is different — the culture, the people, the landscape. The weather. The academic atmosphere here is open ended in a supportive way. My professors and my adviser trust me and give me the freedom to explore my interests.” Nick Rotter-Weller
She says the Honors College, and Associate Dean Melissa Ladenheim, have been especially welcoming and encouraging. While studying abroad in Ireland and reading literature in the country where it was written, Crowley was enthralled connecting text and places. And she describes traveling as a social media intern with young African professionals during a Mandela Washington Fellowship as the best summer of her life.
Rotter-Weller also has found UMaine to be a supportive, encouraging university.
“I was worried when I arrived. I didn’t know anyone within 100 miles — I had no idea what I’d do for Thanksgiving, but by the time it rolled around, I had three offers,” he says.
“The whole UMaine experience has been so different from anything I’ve experienced. Everything is different — the culture, the people, the landscape. The weather. The academic atmosphere here is open ended in a supportive way. My professors and my adviser trust me and give me the freedom to explore my interests.”
Rotter-Weller enjoys playing guitar, listening to music and watching soccer, as well as reading, writing and talking politics. He says talking politics led him to his capstone and fellowship project — an interpretation of Arthur Miller’s play “A View from the Bridge” that seeks to escape the 20th-century ideological binary of capitalism versus communism.
“The idea was a culmination of years of research into political ideology and the Cold War as it relates to drama,” Rotter-Weller says. “I’ve experienced nothing but encouragement for the work I’m doing, and longer, more-sustained projects like this one really prepare me for the work I want to do.”
Rotter-Weller has applied to graduate school at UMaine to earn a master’s in English; he’s interested in teaching at the college level.
The mission of the McGillicuddy Humanities Center is to promote intellectual curiosity and critical reflection, as well as to advance teaching, research and public knowledge of the humanities — including art, literature, history, philosophy, politics and diverse cultures.
“The humanities are what you’re drawn to after your material and physical needs are met,” says Rotter-Weller. “The name is apt — it’s a uniquely human thing. It’s valuable and people gravitate toward it.”
For Crowley, the humanities provide solace in a fast-paced, information-saturated society. “Having these spaces where you can sit, think and engage in discourse surrounding your interests really grounds you and brings you back to the things that matter,” she says. “It is what makes us human, after all.”